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Are you happy?
Not necessarily deliriously euphorically happy, but happy enough?

When we talk about happiness what we’re really describing is a feeling. It’s defined as a state of contentment and well being and it’s something many of us seek to enjoy more of, for no other reason than when we feel happy we’re more productive, open minded, motivated, generous and insightful and it feels preferable to not feeling happy.

But to know what real happiness is, we need something else too, because happiness alone does not make us complete.

To expect to be happy all the time is unrealistic. Even the most positive person will have those off days where they feel frustrated, cross or fed up. Imagine how limiting it would be to experience relentless happiness every day without the opportunity to feel joy, anger, gratitude or sadness at the appropriate time. If we have never felt sad, how can we feel empathy for someone who is going through a tough time? If we have never felt rage how can we react to a perceived injustice or wrongdoing? We thrive by weathering our full range of emotions.

A new study found that while in general we seek to experience more positive emotion, we enjoy greater life satisfaction and less depression when we experience more of the emotions we desire, regardless of whether those emotions are positive or negative.

As the lead researcher Maya Tamir said “Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have.”

What was also interesting was that 10% of those in the study indicated a desire to feel more unpleasant emotion such as anger or hatred, while 11% wanted less love and empathy.

This desire to feel emotion appropriate to a given situation, rather than just to avoid the unpleasant feelings of negative emotions is something I observed in some of my patients that I treated for depression when working as a G.P. Some reported that taking their prescribed antidepressant helped to alleviate some of their depressive symptoms, but what they didn’t like was feeling devoid of experiencing any emotion at all.

Accepting that feeling negative emotion is normal and part of life, is helpful to our overall psychological health.

So next time you find yourself in a place that is less than happy ask yourself “Is this an appropriate way to be feeling right now?” And if the answer is yes, then you can stop beating yourself up for feeling bad. Because sometimes our pursuit for greater happiness, noble as it is, can make us feel worse when we’re feeling bad. Noting your emotion, checking it’s appropriate for the situation you’re in, and accepting it for what it is, helps us to be more resilient to life’s challenges, to step up to overcome our difficulties and savour that glorious time when we know we are truly happy.

  • Is always trying to look on the right side getting you down?
  • How have you used negative emotion to turn your life around for the better?
  • Is being happy at work and in life something you aspire to feel more of?   

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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